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On Orthodox Insularity

The words over the yeshiva's main doors used to be in English.
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Photo Credit: Matanya Tausig/Flash 90

When we see the deconstruction of the Judeo-Christian credo of this nation, and observe that the three Jewish Supreme Court justices comprised the majority of votes that undid the Defense of Marriage Act, does that not make us want to loudly proclaim that Torah-true Jews do in fact believe in traditional mores?

When I lived in New York, I recognized that city as the center of civilization. Now that we have lived in Texas for thirteen years, I have been convinced otherwise. New York is unusual. Its aggressively secular, irreverent culture is not found in many other parts of the nation.

Living in Texas has opened up a new world to me – the world of Judeo-Christian forces fighting a mammoth struggle against secularism, faced with the inherent challenge that a dispirited populace will more readily choose decadence than discipline. I know that it is the Judeo aspect of their tradition that keeps them fighting these battles. And I have come to the conclusion that we should engage these issues alongside them.

Many Jews disagree. I respect them for it. My worldview has been modified by my time in Texas and getting to know its people. My contemporaries in the Northeast often hold a worldview based on the perspective of Eastern Europe and secular New York, both of which mock almost everything the Orthodox Jew holds dear.

In Texas we come in contact with people who to a large extent crave Judeo values – and who don’t understand why so many Jews undermine the very values they gave the world.

In Texas one can’t help but conclude that the battle being fought is not unlike the battle of the five kings and the four kings (Bereishis 14) – which Maharal defines as the struggle between the core physical and the Judeo-inspired – and that observant Jews can help turn the tide.

If most of my brethren do not believe in opening the doors to talk, I pray at the very least they put out a shingle and post the names of yeshivas and shuls in English. It will open a window – a Jacob C. Cohen window – to those looking for an anchor, a framework, a foundation that is Godly. They will see our relationship with God, our commitment to family, and emulate it. And that will be good.

We live in a tumultuous, changing world. What was moral ten years ago is seen by many today as immoral. The tide is turning against us and it will continue to rise.

We should stand up and be counted. Or, or at the least, stand up and be seen.

About the Author: Yaakov Rosenblatt, the author of two books, is a rabbi and businessman in Dallas.


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One Response to “On Orthodox Insularity”

  1. When the yeshiva in Lakewood was first getting off the ground, its students were fed by the local Jewish "egg farmers" (raising chickens for their egg-laying properties); most were first generation immigrants – some post WW2 but many who had come before – who were of very limited observance but had cultural, familial, and emotional ties with the "old world" that Rabbi Kotler represented.

    That Jew is no longer of any concern to the insular yeshivah world; if anything, the only people in the entire spectrum of orthodoxy who show them any attention are the Chabad shiluchim who at least try to be inclusive. But to the black-hat yeshivas and to the rest of the Hasidic world, they could just as well be the Mormons of Utah or the Inuit of the NW Territories of Canada.

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